Friday, November 1, 2019

a moment in the day: knife

As I get out of the car, home from work, Stephen is just behind the fence in the backyard, and calls to me to come around back. It's only fourish in the afternoon. I had an early day, off at three, to come home and catch some quick early dinner before heading off to the opera, to our makeup calls, on this, the second-to-last performance of the run. It's also Halloween. We have a load of candy ready, and a bowl, and I'm hoping to see a trick-or-treater or two before we have to head out and leave the bowl on the porch.

I haul my bags out of the car and come around front, heading to the backyard. Then pause.

I say, "I'm just going to take care of this right now."

The tiny pocket knife sitting on the second-to-top step to our front porch.

It's been sitting there since the middle of January when we came home from an evening at the theater and found it.

I don't know where it came from. I don't know why we left it. At first it seemed like an evil omen to me and I didn't want to touch it. But it soon became this thing Stephen and I both were oddly possessive of, always wanting to make sure it was still there. For me, this was partly habit. It was there so it should stay there. It was also weird, and I like things that are weird.

That weird little knife hooked up with the part of my brain that loves story. I often wonder, how will it end? All stories have ends, so this one must, too. Will we just come home one day and it's gone? Back in the summer that happened, actually. I walked up the steps and—blink—it wasn't there. I felt sad. But I also felt like, OK, there's the end of the story. Now it's a completed thing.

Then I was weeding in the yard over the weekend and found it lying in the middle of the grass.

I put it back on the second-to-top step again and made sure it was set at a slant, just like always.

Last week we had fierce winds in Portland. I wondered if that would be the end to this little knife story. Whether we'd take it down so that it didn't fly off into the night. Whether we'd leave it and it would do just that. I thought about mentioning it to Stephen but then figured I'd let fate decide. And wind whipped the trees all day and all night and the knife didn't budge.

But you don't leave a knife on your porch when it's Halloween.

Hey, kids, we're away, but help yourselves. We have Whoppers. Milk Duds. Concealable weapons.

I round the front of the car and grab the picket knife from the step. It's so small and light in my hand.

Perhaps this will be where the story ends. Perhaps I'll get it back to Stephen at the back fence, and he'll say, maybe it's time...

He holds the gate open for me and I walk through. He points to the place where the fence ends at the corner of our house near the back door.

"Put it there," he says. "It can guard our house from here."

I put the knife on the edge of the fence, and Stephen turns it a little to make sure it's slanty, just like always.

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